5 Big Mistakes People Make With Their Resumes And How To Avoid Them
Looking for work can be a daunting prospect. Especially in today's highly competitive job market. So you want to make sure that you're maximising every advantage at your disposal, to make the most of every career opportunity you're presented with.
But quite often people will trip themselves up, in their hunt for employment, with something like a simple mistake on their resume, that could easily have been avoided. So we've compiled a list of 5 of the more common (and avoidable) mistakes we see people make with their resumes. So that you can be more aware of what to look out for, and ensure that you avoid falling victim to these mistakes yourself.
If after reading through our list, you're still a little unsure whether your current resume is up to snuff, then feel free to take advantage of our FREE Resume Health Check offer. Simply email your resume and/or cover letter, along with a brief description of the type of job you'd like to apply for, to firstname.lastname@example.org. Then one of our writers, after completing an assessment, will send you a free report with personalised recommendations.
1. Not Tailoring Your Resume For Each New Job Application
Finding a job can often be a numbers game. It's a competitive market, and it's not uncommon for people to receive numerous rejections in their hunt for their next dream job. It's crucial that you don't allow these "No's" to stop you from continuing to pursue that eventual "Yes".
This may mean that you could find yourself submitting multiple applications for various jobs, across multiple companies and industries. Regardless of how strong your core resume is, it's vital you ensure that it's individually tailored for each application.
Firstly, it gives you the chance to maximise your keyword alignment with the advertised position description, to give you the best chance of making it through any initial ATS scanning (you can find out more about what ATS is and how it works HERE).
As an example, you may be applying for Office Administrator positions, and one advertised position says that they're looking for someone with experience using Microsoft Excel. While another says that they're looking for someone with experience using spreadsheets. While these are basically the same skill, the ATS for the first position will be scanning your resume for the words "Microsoft Excel", while the other will be scanning it for "spreadsheets". This seems like a subtle differentiation, but it could be the difference between the system flagging you as a possible candidate for the position or not. It's also an easy adjustment to make. So it's definitely worth reading through the job description carefully, and tweaking your resume to match, where appropriate. Obviously it's vital that you never lie on your resume, but it's important to ensure that the skills that you do have, are aligned as closely as possible to however the employer has chosen to describe them in the job description.
Secondly, while employers want to make sure that potential candidates possess certain skill sets, what they really want to know is, how will you bring value to their company specifically?
Before applying for the position, do some research into the company that you would like to work for. What major projects are they currently working on, or what difficulties have they recently had? Then tailor your resume to help demonstrate how you would bring value to these projects, or how your experience could help to solve a problem they may have. You should also be able to show an understanding of the core values of the company, and demonstrate where you may have exemplified these values in the past.
If the company is going through a period of cost saving, you could make a point of highlighting any previous experience you've had with implementing efficiency initiatives. If they've just won a contract to supply certain parts to the mining industry, then you could point out any previous experience you may have had in dealing with those particular parts, or in interacting with companies in that sector. And if their core value is safety, then you should show how you've championed this value previously with other employers.
You need to help the recruiter envision exactly how you are going to provide value specifically to them, and how you'll fit into the company's core values and culture. The easier it is for them to foresee what kind of bang for their buck they'll get by employing you, the more likely they are to want to give you the job.
2. Spelling And Grammatical Errors
This seems like an obvious one, but it's something that a lot of people are guilty of, including myself. If you've spent hours crafting the perfect resume, carefully formatting your skills and experience to match the job description, creating a professional summary that would put Shakespeare to shame, then the last thing that you want is for a simple typo to derail the whole thing.
Because despite all your best intentions, and regardless of how well skilled or qualified you are, the thing that will stick in the mind of the person reviewing your application, will be the small spelling mistakes that you unintentionally overlooked.
Now not many people could be considered walking dictionaries. And after hours of painstaking effort staring at a screen, trying to distill your professional experience and aspirations down into a couple of pages, it's perfectly normal for there to be a couple of typos that slip through the cracks. So how do you make sure that these are picked up before clicking on that "submit" button?
The first obvious tip, is to use a spell checker. Most, if not all, of the mainstream word processing applications have some version of this. Make sure that your language is set correctly. So if you're in Australia, ensure that you've selected English-UK rather than English-US (otherwise it'll start to panic about all of the S's that you've been using instead of Z's).
But the spell checker may not pick up on words that are wrong, but still spelled correctly. Such as leaving the "r" off the end of "your", or the "g" off the end of "thing". Typing the same word twice in a row, is another example. Although sometimes this will be picked up by the grammar checking tool in some applications.
So another tip is to get a set of fresh eyes to look over your resume for you. This could be as simple as asking a friend or family member, or even a career or recruitment counselor.
If you don't feel comfortable asking someone else to look over it, then you can do a version of this yourself. Take a break for a few hours (studies have shown 12 hours to be a good amount of time for this) and then come back to your document and read it through again from the top. It can also be helpful to print a copy off for this. The change of format, will help you to approach the proof reading from a fresh perspective.
3. Including Too Much Irrelevant Information
Google receives over 1 million resumes a year, which equates to just over 2,700 resumes a day. Most of these are eliminated by ATS systems long before they make it into the hands of recruiters. But that still leaves a lot of applications that need to be read and assessed for various positions.
While you may not be applying to Google, you need to keep in mind that the recruiter that may end up with your resume on their desk, may have a lot of other applications to sift through, along with your own.
Studies have shown that you have about 6 seconds to make a memorable impact with a recruiter and capture their attention. Which means you need to get to the point quickly. While it's important to include all of your relevant skills and experience that make you the best candidate for this position, it's equally important to avoid wasting valuable real estate on your resume, and the recruiter's time, by including information that they don't need or care about.
So how do you work out what to include and what to leave out? Well you have to remember that the primary goal of a resume is to sell yourself and your ability to fulfill a specific role to the recruiter. So you should only include information that helps to achieve that goal.
For example, if you're applying to work as an electrician on a mine site, then the recruiter is going to need to know that you have a current Electrical Trade qualification and certification, as well as any relevant mine site inductions or experience. But they probably don't need to know where you went to high school. They need to know that you have the qualification and training required for the job, not everything that came before that.
If on the other hand you had just finished high school and were applying for an electrical apprenticeship, and one of the prerequisites was that you had completed your high school education, then you would definitely include this in your application.
The same applies to your professional experience. Say you were applying for a software development position. And 3 months ago you'd completed an internship at a large software development company. But after that you'd worked at the local cafe while you were searching for employment opportunities. Obviously the recruiter isn't going to care about you're ability to pour the perfect Latte. But they'll be very interested in the skills and experience that you acquired while completing your internship. So this should be the first thing the recruiter sees.
You can also leave off any outdated work experience. For example, if you had been an accountant for the last 15 years, and were now applying to a senior position in a firm, they don't need to know about your experience as a pizza delivery driver 23 years ago while you were at university.
You should do your best to avoid leaving any large unexplained gaps in your work history. But remember to focus on and highlight only the most relevant aspects of your professional skills and experience, specific to the job that you're applying for.
4. Listing Job Duties Without Quantifying Achievements
Every job will have a set of skills required for a candidate to possess, in order to be able to undertake that role successfully. So a lot of people's first instinct is to simply cover off these skills by listing the duties that they performed in previous employment roles.
If an advertised position is looking for someone with experience in a particular accounting software, you might simply say that you utilised this software in your previous role. But how does this differentiate you from all of the other candidates that have also used this software previously? Remember that you're not just trying to show that you can competently undertake the role. Your trying to demonstrate that you are the absolute best person for the job.
So you ideally need to show that you both utilised the desired software, as well as what value you were able to bring your previous employer by using it. Instead of just saying "Used accounting software XYZ", you would elaborate with something along the lines of "Used accounting software XYZ to generate reporting data for 6 company departments, identifying average annual cost savings of 12%."
Now you might be thinking that you don't have any specific achievements that you can use to accompany your experience. In this case, you can still be specific about how you obtained your experience or used your skills, and offer quantifiable data that isn't necessarily an achievement, but still adds weight and context to that skill.
For example, instead of saying "lead teams of maintenance personnel", you could be more specific with something like "lead 4 teams of 8 people, responsible for the delivery of maintenance services to a network covering over 200kms."
The specific quantifiable data makes it easier for the recruiter to envision the types of roles you've previously undertaken, and how your performance in these roles demonstrates a potential to add value to the company you're applying to.
Think of it as painting a picture. The more specific you are with the information you provide, the more vivid and memorable the picture will be for the recruiter.
When doing this, keep in mind mistake number 3 above, and ensure that you don't fall into the trap of trying paint a picture with information that the recruiter doesn't need. Otherwise these irrelevant details will detract from the important information that you want them to focus on.
5. Not Keeping Your Resume Up To Date
We all lead very busy personal and professional lives. We're constantly being exposed to new experiences, training and skill development. Our personal details like our address and phone numbers change. Even the career path that we have in mind for ourselves can shift directions.
All of these changes, new experiences, skills and qualifications should be captured on your resume, to reflect your continual personal and professional development. But as a general rule, most people find updating resumes about as fun as taxes. Especially if you don't have any plans to apply for any jobs in the near future.
There's a couple of problems though with not regularly updating your resume. Firstly, it means that if a career opportunity were to come up unexpectedly, you have to scramble to dust off your old resume and then try to go through and capture all the changes and professional developments that may have happened throughout the years. Meaning that you're now under pressure to get something put together for your application deadline, and that can often lead to things being overlooked.
Secondly, some jobs and industries require employees to undertake a lot of ongoing training. If you're not adding and updating these in your resume on a regular basis, then you run the risk of forgetting to include them at a later date. And the last thing you want to do is leave out industry relevant skills and experience from your resume, that may give you an edge with your next application.
So how often should you update your resume? Once every 12 months is a good rule of thumb for most people. And possibly more often if you're working in an industry with a high volume of ongoing training. It doesn't have to be a complete re-write of your whole resume. Simply ensuring that your contact details are current, and any new qualifications, skills or achievements are added will go a long way to making sure that you're always prepared for that next great career opportunity.
Hopefully this list can help you to avoid making any of these mistakes with your resume, which in turn should help to give you an edge over the competition with your next application.. As always, if you have any questions about any of this information, or would like any other resume related guidance, then feel free to contact us anytime and we'd be happy to help. Or alternatively, leave a comment below and let us know what you thought of the article.
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